Piloting a New Program or Innovative Idea? Incorporate the Continuous Improvement Cycle

The continuous improvement process helps us evaluate the level of success for new programs or ideas implemented. Whether you’re deploying a program on a small scale or large scale, this system of evaluation will enable you or your organization to continually grow, excel, and self-assess.

Furthermore, this cycle is as applicable to mobile learning programs as it is to evaluating personal development and growth. When applying this system from alternative paradigms, the identified processes below may create an issue of semantics; however, the principles and basic ideas are static and timeless.

Here are the seven steps that represent the continual improvement process:

Step 1: Perform a Needs Assessment

This is the data gathering stage that will help you decide the direction of your program. Obtain data from multiple sources. Examples of questions to ask: What does data on standardized assessments reveal? What mobile learning tools are on the rise and decline? What strengths are indicated on standardized assessments? What weaknesses are evident? What input have educators and students provided? Again, these are just examples that represent the framework of what the needs assessment sector of this cycle. Align your questions, sources, and data with the needs of your campus.

Step 2: Identify Goals and Objectives

By the end of the cycle (six weeks, test, unit, semester, year, etc.), what do you hope to have achieved? As Stephen Covey suggests, “begin with the end in mind.” Make your goals and objectives as measurable as possible, leaving little room for subjectivity. If this is a mobile learning program, check your mobile device’s app store to insure apps exist that are relevant to your goals and objectives. Or, you could consider creating your own smart phone web app .

Step 3: Identify Strategies and Activities

Pretend for a moment you’re the coach of a sports team. You’ve scouted the opposition’s talent, and you’re fully aware of your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, you’ve just held a coaches meeting and debriefed your team’s goals and objectives for the upcoming week. Then, you surprise everyone and go with the “shotgun method”, hoping your team comes out to be the victor. More often than not, a kinked system such as this will lead to failures. Unfortunately, some coaches, educators and organizations break the cycle at this point. Align your strategies and activities with your needs and goals. Find “niche apps” that leverage your strengths to address your needs.

Step 4: Implementation

Who do you need to staff? Consider educators from all backgrounds; don’t just seek your innovators. Sure, you’re going to get more input and effort from those actively engaged within the edtech community, but this represents a chance to get others involved. What resources do you need? Do you need additional funds, hardware, software, or management to implement your program?

Step 5: Identify Policies and Procedures

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Look at what other successful schools have done and mesh your school’s parameters within this framework. If you’re the first within your area, consult with your Twitter or Facebook PLN for ideas.

Step 6: Perform Ongoing Formative Assessments

These represent checkpoints that will help you tweak your program or idea as time goes on. Establish accountability for others by setting timetables for follow-ups and document the data obtained from your formative assessments.

Step 7: Assess with a Summative Evaluation

I know that standardized testing isn’t the be-all and end-all of education; however, most public school districts around the U.S. receive funding based on the results of their respective state’s standardized assessment. Evaluating performance on the standardized assessment would be a great way to gauge the success of your program.

Compare your results with your goals and objectives. Did you meet them? If so, congratulations! For the goals you didn’t attain (if you’re piloting something new, this will happen), figure out where the kink was and start the system over again. Any individual or organization piloting innovative ideas is bound to go through this process several times. Remain passionately involved with your ideas, but detach yourself from the emotional stress that’s destined to manifest from not attaining all your goals and objectives and see it from the paradigm of “it is what it is.”